Friday, 27 August 2010

Anaerobic digestion offers farmers food for thought

The UK's emerging anaerobic digestion (AD) industry was thrust into the
limelight this week after two major new projects that promise to demonstrate
the viability of the waste-to-energy technology were unveiled.

First up, energy firm Farmgen broke ground on the first in a wave of
anaerobic digestion plants, designed to provide farmers with an additional
revenue stream from "energy farming".

The £2.5m project at Carr Farm in Warton, Preston will be the first AD plant
built under Farmgen's proposed £30m UK-wide investment programme. Local
crops will be used to create biogas that will generate 1MW of
commercial electricity, which will
then be exported to the national grid.

Farmgen said that it also plans to build a second £2.5m plant in Silloth,
Cumbria later this year and is preparing planning applications for sites in
Lancashire and Staffordshire.

The coalition government has earmarked the accelerated roll out of AD plants
as a key part of its renewable energy strategy and last month launched a
consultation designed to assess how new policies could help increase support
for the emerging sector.

Under the existing feed-in tariff scheme, farmers or businesses installing
AD systems generating up to 500 kilowatt hours (kWh) a year are eligible for
payments of 11.5p per kWh, while those installing larger systems producing
500kWh to 5MW receive 9p per kWh.

Industry insiders have warned that the rates are not currently high enough
to drive the widespread roll out of AD plants and have been calling on the
government to increase in the incentive.

In related news, airport operator BAA announced yesterday that it has signed
a deal with food management firm Vertal that will see travellers food and
drink waste turned into fertiliser for use on local farms.

The company said that food waste from Heathrow's daily 180,000 passengers
will be collected separately and sent to Vertal's recycling facility in
South London where it will be composted within 72 hours.

It added that it hoped the initiative would save carbon emissions equivalent
to around half a million air miles.

Vertal founder and managing director Leon Mekitarian said he hoped the deal
would encourage other firms with large amounts of food waste to invest in
composting technology to reduce their carbon footprint.

"Our accelerated composting technology is significantly more carbon positive
than any other process," he said. "And as the market matures and new
legislation comes on stream, that's becoming a very important business

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